AG won’t act on complaint of fraudulent charter school application

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AUGUSTA — The Maine Attorney General’s Office said it will take no action on whether falsified documents or testimony were presented in Lewiston-Auburn charter school application.

An investigator for the AG’s office said he found no basis for a formal investigation of the Lewiston-Auburn Academy Charter School application.

“We have closed this matter and we intend no further action,” Director of Investigations Brian MacMaster said in a Nov. 27 letter to Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald.

On Nov. 17, Macdonald blasted the Attorney General’s Office for doing “absolutely nothing” about a charter school application in Lewiston-Auburn that claimed it had support from three community leaders when it did not, according to the Maine Charter School Commission.

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“We have reviewed your claim that there were falsifications in the application,” MacMaster wrote to Macdonald.

“The denial of the application was based on considerations quite apart from any notion of falsified documents or testimony,” MacMaster said. “Indeed, the commission appropriately vetted the various letters of support and found them to be genuine.”

MacMaster said his office offered to meet with Macdonald and asked him to provide them with information about his claims.

“Notwithstanding the absence of a response to these requests, we examined all other available information and we spoke with persons involved in the application process,” MacMaster said. “Nothing in our review suggested that the applicants engaged in the falsification or misrepresentation of any documents in any way that would implicate potential criminal violations.”

The application was soundly rejected by the Maine State Charter Commission on March 3.

As the Sun Journal reported on March 4, Commissioner Ande Smith said he was “incensed” that commissioners were lied to in the application. Smith recommended the application be referred to the Attorney General’s Office.

The commission voted unanimously to not only deny the application, it voted to strike language in a report inviting the school to apply again.

Tim Feeley, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said Tuesday that whatever an individual commissioner said at the hearing, “the commission itself rejected the application based on other factors. … Based on the information gathered, we have found no credible evidence that would implicate potential criminal violations.”

Before the charter commission vote, Lewiston Schools Superintendent Bill Webster discovered that among hundreds of pages in the application, three letters of endorsement were purportedly written by former Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert, Lewiston Economic Development Director Lincoln Jeffers and Bates College professor Mara Tieken. However, the three never endorsed the charter school, Webster said.

A frustrated Macdonald told reporters last month that he requested an investigation several times but had heard nothing from the Attorney General’s Office.

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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